Audiobooks, Elementary Music, Preschool Music

Music/Audio Devices for Chinese Learning

Because I’m too lazy to write separate blog posts, here’s a comprehensive summary of all the audio devices we’ve used for the last two years from 4-6 years old.

For those of you who are new to my page, I only started teaching my son Chinese at age 4.5. I feel that #1 and #2 listed below are geared more for the 2-5 age group, however, we used them when he was older at 4-6 years old and he still enjoyed them. I’ve also heard the songs in Chinese immersion classrooms so I do think they are okay even up to 6-7 years old if the child is a beginner to Chinese.

Toddler/Preschooler

#1. Songbooks with CD

What it is: Each book/CD has about 40 songs and there are lyrics and picture for each song. This was really helpful for my son when he didn’t know much Chinese yet and he could figure out the meaning of the song from the picture.

Verdict: SUUPER SUUPER love and recommend these because they are such value for money! Each book/CD set costs less than $5 each (90 TWD on books.com.tw or buy in store at Popular bookstore in Singapore) and my son listened to these repeatedly until the CDs were scratched and damaged. Aside from introducing him to all the well-known songs that every Chinese child knows, he also learned a lot of vocabulary and characters by reading along with the lyrics.

Also it turned him from a kid who hates and doesn’t speak Chinese to a kid who does!!

I’ve recommended this many times and parents always say that their kids just LOVE it.

#2. Story Machine 故事機

What it is: It has hundreds of songs and stories pre-loaded in it and the child can use the buttons to select what they want to listen to. Mine is a fancier version that has WIFI connection so you can tune in to a radio channel for a new story every day, voice command, and parents can also wirelessly download new audio into the machine.

Verdict: I bought mine from Taobao for about $35 and had to pay $85 in sensitive mail to ship it to the USA. If I could go back in time I probably wouldn’t have paid $120 total for this and would buy a simpler version from a US-based store like Gloria’s Bookstore or Yobabyshop for about $50. Because truth be told, we barely used the fancy features.

My son still likes to listen to it occasionally when he’s doing crafts or some other silent activity. Since it doesn’t have a screen, it is more difficult to navigate to find the song/story you want. Also, he started outgrowing Chinese 兒歌 and 童話故事 around 6 years old.

Elementary Age

#3. Smartphone Apps

What it is: There are hundreds of free apps out there but because I like to keep things simple, I only use three: XimalayaFM to stream audiobooks for him and NetEaseMusic and Spotify to stream Chinese pop music for me.

Verdict: Completely free and requires zero effort aside from hitting the play button!! I mean, can it get any easier? We use this on every car ride to play audiobooks via bluetooth. Occasionally he lets me listen to my music because… sometimes mommy needs a break from kids stuff.

The downside is that of course my phone is MINE and he can’t have control over it to play it whenever he wants. Which is why #4 below is so important.

#4. MP3 Player

What it is: I spent a long time looking for a portable music player for my son that is HIS to listen to his audio whenever and wherever he wants to. It’s not exactly feasible to walk around with a Discman and CD binder with 20 CDs… 🤣. I didn’t want anything with apps like an iPod because he would probably use it to watch videos and play games instead of the intended purpose of Chinese learning.

Anyway I found this $35 MP3 player from Amazon. I have his files organized into folders “Audiobooks”, “Music” and “Podcasts” and it is easy to navigate. It also has built-in speakers so you can listen with headphones or without.

Verdict: It’s great!! I love seeing him curled up in bed listening to his favorite 米小圈 audiobooks. It is super small and portable for travel and really easy to navigate. Given that it cost only $35 I’m not expecting it to last forever but it’s been doing it’s job for six months now.

It does take time for me to rip files from CD or websites into MP3 but I find it completely worth it. Besides, I can multi-use the MP3 files by also loading them into…

#5. C-Pen

What it is: A reading pen that comes with 5000 stickers that you can use to either record your own audio or to play MP3/wav files that you transfer using your computer. I bought it on sale for $99 and it is now sold on Gloria’s for $121.

Verdict: I love this because it serves so many different functions!!!! It is also really easy to use although it does take time to record/transfer files. Examples below.

Read aloud Chinese/English books:

My son is learning Spanish which I don’t speak, so I rip the audio from Google Translate so that he can read along with it:

When I have to work late and can’t read Chinese with him, I have him record himself so that I can listen to it later: 

Summary

Music and audio play a big role in our Chinese learning journey, particularly since I’m not a native Chinese speaker. It is a trial and error process to find out what works for your child, but most importantly don’t stop trying!!! I’ve heard many parents bemoan that their kids don’t like listening to audiobooks. It took my son a long time to develop a taste for them since he is a more visual and active learner. Try everything! Science, comics, magazines, folk tales, silly stories… If you keep trying eventually something will be a hit! 🙂

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Audiobooks, Preschool Music, Preschool Reads

Free Chinese Audiobooks for Children

I’ve started compiling a list of audiobooks that I plan to listen with my son (5 years old). These are appropriate for preschoolers with Chinese background, or lower elementary immersion students. They are all available for free on Ximalaya! When you click on the links, you can choose to listen on the website or app:

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Classics:

I won’t bother describing these because you’re probably familiar with them from your own childhood. 🙂

奇先生妙小姐 Mr. Men and Little Miss (83 tracks)img_0536
青蛙和蟾蜍 Frog and Toad (20 tracks)img_0528
亲爱的小熊 Little Bear (17 tracks)img_0532
贝贝熊 Berenstein Bears (72 tracks)img_0531
神奇校车 Magic School Bus (22 tracks)img_0525
村长讲故事 Fairy Tales Collection (70 tracks) – This album contains classic stories like The Three Little Pigs as well as Chinese tales like The Moon Lady. Read by TV star Li Rui.

Translated Works:

青蛙弗罗格的成长故事 Frog and Friends (29 tracks) – This is a good series to start with as the stories are easy to understand and relatable for preschoolers.

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你看起来好像很好吃 You Look Yummy (1 track) – Such a tearjerker. 😥 A very moving story about a dinosaur and his adopted son. I hope they record the other books in this series. img_0535

我爱阅读 I Love Reading, Blue Series (42 tracks) – I bought this set of early readers for my son so we’ll try to listen to them first before reading. img_0537

Chapter Books:

The audiobooks above are all short stories and be listened to in any order. The two below are chapter books and are best listened in order (even though each chapter sort of stands alone). They are geared towards early elementary children and are written by Chinese authors. I’m always happy to find non-translated Chinese books because they are such a rare breed!

笨狼的故事 Stupid Wolf (34 tracks) – This is a popular series from China and is about the antics of Stupid Wolf and his friend Clever Rabbit. It reminds of Amelia Bedelia because the main character doesn’t know he’s doing something silly but the child listening can usually figure it out. img_0534
屁屁超人 Fart Boy (8 tracks) – These books are part of acclaimed Reading 123 series from Taiwan. I know my son (big fan of Captain Underpants) will love the potty humor. 💩 Ha ha.img_0533

If you’ve been following my Chinese Home Library posts, you’ll realize I bought 8 of the 11 series listed above. I like having both the book and audiobook because they really compliment each other. Last summer Little Man listened and read Nate the Great about 20x on repeat. He even read harder books like Wayside School after listening to them multiple times.

(Off topic: I highly recommend Nate the Great audiobooks in English. The narrator John Levelle does an amazing job making the characters come to life.)

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But the problem is… where to find time to listen to all these audiobooks?? 🤔

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Audiobooks, Preschool Music, Preschool Reads

Preschool Reads:《睡前5分钟童话》5 Minute Bedtime Fairy Tales Book/CD

I ❤️️ book and CD sets. This book and 《两只老虎》 are my best purchases from Popular bookstore from our last trip back to Singapore.

The book is nothing special but it’s really easy to understand, with only one sentence per page. Really good for younger kids (2+) and beginning Chinese learners.

The book contains four short stories. The 5 minute length of each story is just right for my active-boy-with-short-attention-span.

I was expecting the audiobook to be of poor quality, but much to my pleasant surprise, it is really good!! I enjoy listening to it as it helps me with 朗读 (reading aloud), which is really not one of my talents. Listening to the narrator makes me realize that I read much too fast and lack in expression and intonation. 

We listen in the car, which is when Little Man has the best attention because he is nothing else to do. He loves to read along with the audiobook. This of course is the best part. Improving listening and reading at the same time!

Are you wondering what the audiobook sounds like? That’s always my question when I buy CDs and not knowing if it’s a dud or a win. Click here to listen a little sample!

What I don’t like about it is… it’s soooo naggy! Never thought that I would be nagged to death by an audiobook?!! At the end of each story, the narrator goes on and on about how to be careful, don’t take stuff from strangers, don’t stray away from your mom and dad.. blahblahblah. Tempted to skip those tracks but Little Man didn’t complain so we just listened to it.

We have 2 out of 4 books in the series. I’d like to find other book/CD sets of similar lower listening levels, but not much luck so far. Little Man is not ready to listen to audiobooks without any pictures. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

Where to buy: Popular bookstore in Singapore or Malaysia. Popular Online, only ships within Malaysia.

Cost: $8.90 SGD

Publisher: Popular Book Corporation

ISBN: 978-986-301-332-7

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